Dementia currently affects at least 47 million people worldwide. As we’ve discussed in past articles, Alzheimer’s disease and other serious forms of dementia are a growing problem. With diagnoses occurring at progressively younger ages, it’s becoming difficult to believe that these neurodegenerative issues are simply a byproduct of natural, age-related cognitive decline.
On the contrary, voluminous evidence suggests that cognitive decline is affected by a wide range of lifestyle and environmental factors. Some of these factors are a matter of direct choice, such as the food we eat, the supplements we take, and our level of physical activity. Others are more difficult to control, such as the hidden industrial toxins in our air, water, and household products.
Luckily, we can mitigate the damaging effects of modern living by consciously committing to as many brain-boosting lifestyle choices as we can. Despite the fact that the Alzheimer’s Association still maintains that the disease “cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed,” research demonstrates that lifestyle can make a profound difference.
Start with foods and supplements
A healthy lifestyle has many facets—exercise, work-life balance, cultivation of a rich and supportive social life, emotional self-care, and much more—but you can make great progress just by optimizing the foods and supplements you consume.
Here are some of the top foods and supplements you can use to stop cognitive decline in its tracks. And even if you’re young, healthy, and unconcerned about cognitive decline, you can still experience an acute boost in cognitive performance and clarity by integrating these foods and supplements into your life.
Cucumbers. Studies have demonstrated that cucumber flavonoids such as luteolin, diosmin, and fisetin can help prevent memory loss and cognitive decline. In recent years, researchers have taken a particular interest in fisetin, which has been described as an “orally active, neuroprotective and cognition-enhancing molecule.”
Berries, especially blueberries and strawberries, also contain brain-boosting flavonoids (including fisetin). One study found that women with a greater long-term intake of blueberries and strawberries (at least a cup per week) were able to slow cognitive decline by at least 2.5 years. Researchers attribute these effects to the potent antioxidant properties of anthocyanidins, fisetin, and other berry flavonoids.
Grapes have been shown to slow aging and protect against cognitive decline by fighting oxidative stress in the brain. Choose the red and purple varieties, as they contain the most powerfully brain-boosting antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and resveratrol. Studies have shown that daily doses of resveratrol in particular can improve working and spatial memory in older adults.
L-acetyl-carnitine. While proper diet should always be first priority, maintaining an optimized supplement regimen can also be immensely helpful (especially because much of our food is grown in woefully nutrient-depleted soil). Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) has been shown to enhance memory and cognition, both in healthy, young individuals as well as those undergoing cognitive decline. Researchers posit that the improvements in learning and memory it conveys are a function of its ability to increase synaptic neurotransmission. Supplementing with acetyl-L-carnitine is especially important for vegetarians and vegans, as most natural food sources of this compound are animal products.
Algae oil. Omega-3 fatty acids, especially in the form of DHA, are essential for healthy brain function. Studies have demonstrated that proper omega-3 supplementation can lower brain inflammation, limit cognitive impairment and decline, improve memory and overall cognitive function, and reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. The most common source of omega-3s is fish oil, a product often burdened by mercury contamination, a tendency to rancidify, and unsustainability. Algae oil has none of these drawbacks, and offers all the same brain benefits.
Turmeric has proven itself effective for a wide variety of health applications, and brain support is no exception. Turmeric is nearly unparalleled at combatting inflammation, one of the key underlying factors of cognitive decline. Furthermore, researchers have found that a compound in turmeric called ar-turmerone defends the brain against damage and neuroinflammation, and even facilitates neurogenesis (the growth of new neurons) by speeding the process by which brain stem cells differentiate into functioning neurons. If you want to experience the brain-supporting power of turmeric and algae oil put together, we highly recommend trying this product.
Leafy greens. It should be common knowledge that leafy greens are an essential part of any health-promoting diet—but in case you need more reasons to eat lots of them, it’s worth noting that they’re a powerful defense against cognitive decline. One prospective study in particular found that eating one serving per day of green, leafy vegetables helps slow cognitive decline dramatically (even if all other lifestyle factors remain constant).
B vitamins are so profoundly supportive of brain health that “B” might as well stand for “brain.” Studies demonstrate that optimized B vitamin levels allow the body to maintain low levels of homocysteine, a critical marker of Alzheimer’s risk. In fact, for every unit increase in B12 blood level, the risk of Alzheimer’s disease drops by 2%. Other studies have shown that ongoing B vitamin supplementation can reduce the brain shrinkage and damage associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s by up to 90%. When starting your regimen, though, always be sure to choose only the most absorbable form of B vitamins.